LTS

Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

Student Spotlight – Valeria Ochoa

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Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?

I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!

You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?

Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.

Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?

My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.

One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.

 

Video Blog Update!

Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!

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